The Pearl rock lies about a mile and a half due south, and Cape Malabata, the north-east point of Tangier bay (on the opposite side of the strait), about 22 miles south-west, of Cabrita point : how then, with the wind at east-south-east, could the Gibraltar want "to weather Cabrito point" to get into Tangier bay ?
The Gibraltar did not sail for England until five weeks after the accident ; but, when taken into dock at Plymouth, in March 1797, a large piece of rock was undoubtedly found sticking in her bottom. Had the Gibraltar, on her way home, encountered a resolute enemy, the concussion of a few broadsides might have dislodged the rock and proved fatal to the ship. Of such a circumstance, too, the enemy would have taken due advantage, and have declared, with some show of reason, that he had sunk his opponent.
Having intrusted the command of the naval force at Porto-Ferrajo to commodore Nelson, who forthwith shifted his broad pendant from the Captain to the Minerve frigate, Sir John Jervis, on the 16th of December, got under way with his fleet and steered for the Tagus, where he expected to be joined by a reinforcement from England. Very soon after his departure, the Zealous struck on a sunken rock in Tangier bay, and, although she presently got off, was greatly damaged. On the 21st Sir John entered the river of Lisbon ; and here another sad accident befel his fleet. The Bombay-Castle 74, Captain Thomas Sotheby, having put her helm a-port to avoid running foul of the Camel store-ship, was swept from her course by the tide, and obliged to let go an anchor. Before, however, the ship could swing, she struck on the sand-bank at the river's mouth. Here the Bombay-Castle remained beating from the 21st until 8 h. 30 m. p.m. on the 28th, when every officer and man of her crew was safe out of her. In the first instance some delay occurred in the arrival of boats to her assistance; and afterwards the increased violence of the weather rendered unavailing all the efforts that were made to get the ship afloat. The Camel also grounded on the bar, but got off without any material damage.
This last accident reduced Sir John Jervis's fleet in force, but not in number, as the St.-Albans 64, bearing the flag of Vice-admiral Vandeput, was lying in the Tagus when the admiral arrived : consequently, the latter had still under his command 14 sail of the line, including one ship, however, the Zealous, not in a condition for immediate service. A contemporary states, that Sir John sailed from Gibraltar with only ten, and had now but nine sail of the line "to contend against the French and Spanish fleets." * As a proof that our account is correct, here follow the names of the ships: Victory, Britannia, Barfleur, Blenheim, St.-George, Gibraltar, Captain, Culloden, Egmont, Excellent, Goliath, Zealous, Diadem, and St.-Albans. As to the danger of
* Brenton, vol. ii., p. 141.
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